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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — It was a short stay for the Tipton volleyball team in its state tournament debut. Sixty-one minutes, to be exact.

With no seniors in its starting lineup, coupled with an Osage squad that returned six starters from last year's state tournament team, Tipton ran into a buzzsaw Wednesday morning.

Class 3A sixth-ranked Osage recorded a 25-18, 25-19, 25-18 quarterfinal triumph over eighth-ranked Tipton at the U.S. Cellular Center.

“The atmosphere completely changed us,” Tipton’s Amanda Smith said. “We couldn’t adapt right away.

"This was definitely a learning experience.”

State tournament newbies rarely have immediate success. Usually, it takes a time or two to fully grasp the surroundings before a school makes an extended run.

Tipton (32-7) showed flashes in the second and third sets, but was undone by a .139 hitting efficiency (18 hitting errors) and a balanced Osage offensive attack.

“We made a lot of mistakes and errors on our side,” Tipton coach Amy Calonder said. “Our serve receive wasn’t quite on, and our defense wasn’t quite there. They did a good job of getting us out of our system.

“You can try to simulate what’s going to happen as best as you can in your own gym, but it does not compare to walking in and coming to this type of venue. I saw a lot of wide eyes.”

Calonder called timeouts to try and settle her team down. It wasn’t enough.

“It is completely different than any other game we’ve played,” Smith said. “You’ve got another court going on, tons of people. The court seems small in a huge space.”

Osage was on the wrong end of a quarterfinal sweep last year.

This time, the Green Devils (26-9) were ready for the moment. They had four players with at least seven kills.

“We knew what the U.S. Cellular Center was going to throw at us,” said senior Kelsey Havel, who had a team-high 12 kills. “I felt like we played more relaxed.”

Tipton fell behind 10-4 in the opening set. It rallied back within two at 18-16, but Osage won seven of the final nine points of the set.

The Tigers had a 12-9 lead in the middle set, but the Green Devils answered with five straight.

“I felt we got a point, and then we let them get two points,” Blake Ehler said. “You can’t do that. We had to push all the way through, and at points we didn’t.”

Tipton had a 13-9 advantage in the third, but Osage responded with five straight. The Green Devils closed the match on an 11-2 surge.

“We don’t get shaken very easily,” Osage coach Andie Olson said. “This group of kids is very calm and focused. They’re very mature on the court.”

Ehler and Sommer Daniel led Tipton with nine kills each. Daniel had 14 assists, and Smith finished with 11.

“Honestly, we compared physically with that team, but mentally it wasn’t there for a lot of us,” Daniel said. “We’re definitely going to learn from this. Now that we’ve been here as a team, we need to keep in the back of our mind what this feeling is like.

“We came here really wanting it, but I think it hit us that we’ve got to work a lot harder than we have.”

Tipton returns virtually everyone next season. A return trip is a high possibility.

“This motivates me a lot,” Ehler said. “I hate losing, and this is devastating.”

That was Calonder’s message to her team after it walked off the court with a state tournament plaque.

“We don’t want that feeling next year,” she said. “We want to go up and go further. This is a great group of kids, highly skilled volleyball players. We’ll give them the offseason, and we’ll come back in ready to go.”


Sports Editor

Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.